Mikola Statkevich “Banhalor Square doesn’t fit BNR 90th anniversary celebration”

The Minsk authorities allowed to hold a demonstration in honour of the Belarusian National Republic 90th anniversary from the Academy of Sciences to Banhalor Square. Mikola Statkevich, applicant for the action and one of the initiators of the campaign “European Belarus” finds this permission to be insulting for national holiday Freedom Day.”

In the interview to Radio Svaboda he called on everyone to come to Yakub Kolas Square on 25 March

– Personally I am going to come to Yakub Kolas Square at 6.00pm 25 March and I call on everyone, who finds this date and Belarus’ independence important, to do the same.

– Did the applicants decline all responsibility for the events?

– Not all of them. I haven’t declined the responsibility. But I have absolved myself from the responsibility for consequences. If all of us decline all responsibility for the action, it will be uncontrolled.

– Opposition leaders had different views on routes of rallies, but you have always stood against rallies to Banhalor Square. Will opposition leaders have an agreed position on Freedom Day celebration?

– We will have a unified position, if for no other reason that I am among the organisers and I won’t allow to go to Banhalor Square. We have a unified position now that Banhalor Square doesn’t fit for the celebration of the BNR 90th anniversary.

We will gather on Yakub Kolas Square and will try to move on a planned route. It’s very important for me that people go to traffic way, otherwise it will be treason of the young people who are involved in a criminal case for rallies in January, when they lead the demonstrators to traffic way and a criminal case was initiated against them. If all actions are held in proper way, as in any other country – on traffic area, a criminal article for the fact people don’t walk on pavements during a demonstration won’t be used.

– In your view, what oppositional action in honour of Freedom Day was the most successful in times of the independent Belarus?

– I’d like to mark out three actions taking into account wide response and effect. The action in 1993, when a war for independence began again – a street war, I’d like to name it so. Kebich’s government began to bargain with Russia: whether to introduce Russian ruble or not. 10 thousands of Minsk dwellers walked along Independence Avenue. It was interesting because a column of Belarusian Military Association was organised – a thousand of military men marched accompanied with drums, it produced such impressing effect, that all talks about union stopped for a certain time.

The action in 1996 was headed by Zyanon Paznyak. It was the action when many people suddenly took to streets after a pause in street action in response to sign an agreement on CIS. There were clashes with militia. That action probably put the beginning of the most active stage of street war for independence, when democratic forces didn’t meet majority in the society for supporting of independence and pressured on the government to maintain it.

And the last remarkable action was in 2000. The authorities themselves promoted the action – they surrounded Yakub Kolas Square with armored troop carriers, soldiers with dogs, they detained journalists. In spite of that the demonstration was held around the perimeter of the square, but it evoked a wide response in the world. These actions during the struggle for independence were the most effective.